By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
When I met visual artist Olivia Botha for the first time, it was in 2017, and I met her at the offices of leading fine art auction house Strauss &Co. in Houghton, Johannesburg, where she had just been declared the winner of the Welz Cassirer Award for that year. She had just flown from Harare, Zimbabwe, where she was based at the time.
At the time, the Bloemfontein born and Cape Town bred artist, a graduate of fine art from Michaelis at the University of Cape Town, was temporarily based in Harare where she was practicing her art after graduation. The story of why she chose to practice her art in Harare instead of her motherland at that point in time, is a story for another day.
At the time, during an interview, she described her art practice as multi-disciplinary. That was then, but now, after spending some time as a resident artist at Johannesburg’s famous Bag Factory Artist Studios, where she received mentorship from various masters of fine art, her career has taken a new turn for the better.
Her practice is now more focused, confined to mainly painting oil on board. Her current body of work, which constitutes her solo exhibition entitled, Caught, exclusively of portraits are a confirmation that whatever mentorship the artist has been getting since winning the Welz Cassirer Award has worked magic. Her art practice has developed and shows a remarkable maturity with regards to style and the subject matter.
It is obvious that the mentorship she has been getting has not only assisted her to focus her art practice, but her brush strokes also demonstrate immense confidence from the artist.
Apparently when Botha is painting she is very fast and does not go back where she has painted, believes that the first brush stroke is the most significant and authentic representation of an artist’s imagination.
The portraits are also very loud and unapologetic about the message they are sending to the viewer –all the faces are sad, and whatever is inflicting them is quite huge.
Botha in this exhibition has stretched her imagination to reach a dark space of human frailty, anxiety and vulnerability. Viewing Caught will leave you with a clear idea that the artist is touching on a very dark corner of human existence and experience, and one is left with no doubt that this work could only have been produced by someone who is personally motivated by some experience that is very close to their heart.
And in many ways this exhibition shows a mature Botha who has eventually found her own voice within the contemporary art landscape in South Africa, and she is not afraid to amplify that voice in this exhibition. And unsurprisingly, Botha is starting to get noticed and she is currently receiving recognition from the art establishment, not only locally but internationally as well.
Scoring this solo exhibition at David Krut Projects is proof enough that Botha is steadily moving into the big league of contemporary artists in South Africa as this body of work comprising mainly of paintings and unique print works demonstrate.
Essentially though Botha is a multidisciplinary artist working in various media such as painting, poetry, printmaking, installation, video and drawing. She is interested in unearthing how personal narratives, concepts of identity, and physical as well as imagined environments affect the present.
The artist is currently preparing to undertake a 12-month fellowship with the renowned DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program, as well as a 2-month residency for artists from Africa in France near, Toulouse.
Due to travel restrictions Botha’s international residencies were repeatedly delayed. She returned to Cape Town, the place where she grew up, and producedthis body of paintings at The Fourth during a residency arranged for her by David Krut.
Caught brings together these paintings and works made at the David Krut Workshop over the past two years.
View the exhibition online here: https://davidkrutportal.com/olivia-botha-caught-david-krut/
Olivia Botha on the David Krut Podcast which is available on Spotify:
.Caught opened on August 14, 2021,at David Krut Projects Gallery, 142, Jan Smuts, Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg.